Billie Eilish and her producer and songwriting partner (and older brother), Finneas, performed and participated in a Q&A at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on Tuesday (Sept. 17).
The event occurred just four months before Eilish and Finneas are likely to win big at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards, which will be held at Staples Center, just down the block from the Grammy Museum. Eilish’s debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, which has topped the Billboard 200 for three weeks, is a potent candidate for album of the year. “Bad Guy,” which reached No. 1 on the Hot 100, is a strong candidate for record and song of the year.
Even so, the Grammys weren’t mentioned once, perhaps so as not to jinx anything.
The event began and ended with sparse performances of a few songs, with just Eilish, 17, and Finneas, 22, on stage. Eilish, wearing an oversize white shirt with the words “Bad Guy” spelled out in sequins, sang “Ocean Eyes,” “Bad Guy” and “When the Party’s Over,” among others. Finneas had a chance to perform his 2019 single “I Lost a Friend.” It was good to see him step out of Eilish’s shadow for a moment. In between the performance segments was a Q&A, which was conducted by the Grammy Museum’s Scott Goldman.
Here are 10 highlights from the Q&A.
They had been here before as fans: Both sibs made note that they had come to a lot of events at the Grammy Museum together as they were growing up. (The museum opened in 2008.) Eilish noted, “I saw Childish Gambino and Tori Kelly here. We saw Stevie Nicks when I was nine.” Both siblings also participated in songwriting workshops at the museum.
Eilish’s bum prediction: Eilish remembered when her initial single, “Ocean Eyes,” reached 1,000 plays. “At the time I thought that was my moment and then it would be over forever,” she said, pausing before delivering the dry punchline. “I was wrong.”
No place like home: Eilish recorded her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go, in Finneas’ home studio in Highland Park, a suburb of Los Angeles. There are perks to recording at home, Finneas noted. “We had a private chef, named our mom. And we could pet our dog—he was like a therapy dog.” By contrast, Eilish recorded her initial EP, Don’t Smile at Me, in a professional studio and remembers it as “a miserable experience.”
Working with family: When Goldman asked “Why do you work so well together,” Eilish noted, “With siblings, if you have an argument it’s not like it’s over forever. You can’t break up with your brother. When you’re collaborating with someone else, you can spend 40 minutes trying to tell them nicely that you don’t like (something). Here you can just say it.”
She’s the star: “We’ve never billed it as a duo,” Finneas noted. “It’s so important that it’s her vision. I don’t have anything to do with the visuals. It’s her singing the songs.”
Keep it clean—on the record: Like most 17-year olds, Eilish is prone to use expletives, as she did a few times at the Museum. But there are none on the album. Goldman asked about that. “There’s always a better word than a swear word,” Finneas said. “So we tried to do that.”
An unexpected influence: When Goldman asked what music has inspired them, Eilish began with a long and passionate nod to Frank Sinatra, who died in May 1998, more than three years before she was born. “He changed the way we feel about music,” Eilish said. Her other influences include Tyler, the Creator, Childish Gambino, Avril Lavigne, Twenty One Pilots, My Chemical Romance and Lana Del Rey, among others.
Mutual respect: Eilish and Finneas respect each other’s strengths. “I’ve always thought I was a terrible songwriter,” Eilish said. “We’re four years apart. He started writing at 12. Me, too, but four years later. It was annoying how good he was. Because he’s always been so good, it makes me feel bad.” Finneas countered, “Her pitch is dead-on all the time…When I wrote ‘When the Party’s Over,’ it had a universal quality. (But I knew that) she could interpret the song and do it way better than I ever could.”
Eilish’s emotional ups and downs: Eilish was candid about her struggles with depression and anxiety. “The last two years were the worst for me,” Eilish said. “At the beginning of this year, I was the most depressed I’d ever been. I got out of it…The last two months, it’s been the happiest I’ve ever been.”
Never read comments online: Eilish related how hurt she was to read online comments about her. “I would see online ‘She’s fake depressed,’ ‘She’s a little rich white girl.’ It hurt to see that when I was literally bleeding on the bathroom floor.”